Airport-expansion foe not short of street cred

David Mayhew outside the Dunedin courthouse. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
David Mayhew outside the Dunedin courthouse. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
He was a cabin boy on the Earnslaw, swept the streets of Queenstown and picked the fruit in the Cromwell Gorge before it was flooded by the Clyde Dam.

Now, David Mayhew is flying the kite of a new regional international airport somewhere other than Queenstown.

Mr Mayhew has come to prominence in recent months as chairman of the Kelvin Peninsula Community Association, determined to see an end to the growth of Queenstown Airport and, preferably, its eventual relocation from Frankton.

Asked about his Queenstown street cred, the one-time high-flying London lawyer harks back to his childhood when he holidayed in Queenstown, and to his teenage years when he did holiday jobs in and around the resort.

Mr Mayhew said he spent a couple of weeks on the "ash cart'', picked fruit at Hinton's Orchard and served the morning and afternoon teas on the Earnslaw.

"It was great fun when the Earnslaw went all the way up to Glenorchy and all the way down to Kingston.''

Mr Mayhew was born in Dunedin - Corstorphine, to be precise - and attended Otago Boys' High School and the University of Otago, where he studied law and history.

That led to jobs with the Treasury in Wellington, then at the Dunedin law practice of Ross Dowling Marquet Griffin.

His OE to London led him into a partnership at Clifford Chance - "at that stage one of the biggest law firms in the world''.

After 14 years there, he joined the Financial Services Authority in London in 2001, and in 2010 he returned to New Zealand to work with the Securities Commission as commissioner for financial advisers.

Mr Mayhew said his success in London was "all off the back of the education I received here'' and that motivated him to want to give something back to New Zealand.

In 2011, Mr Mayhew's job disappeared with the abolition of the Securities Commission and he returned to London, where he acted for the Royal Bank of Scotland in the parliamentary inquiry that followed the global financial crisis.

But, as a regular visitor to Queenstown, and recognising the resort as his "spiritual home'', Mr Mayhew decided to become a permanent resident.

Mr Mayhew said he had no issue with the airport "in its current operation'' but does have an issue with it doubling its capacity.

"My view ... is that that will destroy the jewel in the crown.

"The jewel in the crown is Queenstown as a destination.

"To turn the corridor from Gibbston valley right through to [Lake Wakatipu] into a constant corridor for air traffic strikes me as being lunacy.

"That's where I started when I wrote my first letter to the Otago Daily Times.''

Mr Mayhew is now the leading figure of a group of people promoting the idea of Queenstown Airport being replaced by a regional airport somewhere else.

"This is not a nimby approach. It's already in my back yard and I accept it entirely in its current form.''

Mr Mayhew believes it is up to the Queenstown Lakes District Council to steer the airport corporation in the direction indicated by the Queenstown community, and that, he says, "clearly'' makes it an election issue in October.

"Individual councillors will be asked: 'what's your view?'''


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